Belay Talks

The most important person in my life is my belayer. My life is literally in their hands. It is also literally scary to get a new belayer. NEVER worry about offending the person. Instead ask what you need to feel comfortable. If your belayer is offended or refuses to answer, you need a new partner. What should we talk about before getting on the wall?

  1. Always make a point to see if they are ready before hopping on the wall. Formally the conversation goes like this:

Climber: On belay?

Belayer: Belay on!

Climber: Ready to climb?

Belayer: Climb on!

Climber: Climbing (As in, “Okay, here I am climbing now”)

***HUGE THING for multi-pitch if you cannot see each other. As the belayer say absolutely SILENT unless you are on belay. At a distance NOT READY sounds a lot like BELAY ON. DON’T CLIMB sounds like GO CLIMB. If not ready, stay silent.

Otherwise do whatever it takes to feel confident. Here are somethings I might do:

Top Rope Belay:

Top rope belaying is super simple. I just check if they are comfortable. If they are newish to climbing I give them an out by asking, “Do you feel good, would you like a refresher?” They love it! It is hard to ask for help, but if they need a refresher it creates an easy in for them to just double check that the still got it.

Lead Belay:

My fear of falling is strong. I ask a lot of questions. This are the things I want to know:

  • Have you lead belayed before?
  • (if using an ATC) Do you know how to use a Grigri? Do you want to use my Grigi?
  • How much do you weigh? Potential follow up: Do you know how to do a soft catch?
    • If nervous about offending try this version, “I weigh XXX, if you weigh more than me I would love a soft catch. Do you know how to do a soft catch?”
  • Do you know how to do a hard catch?
  • Can you keep it pretty tight until the 3rd bolt?
  • On this multi-pitch if you cannot hear me yell on belay, I will give three hard pulls on the rope. Can you give three hard pulls back to let me know when you are climbing?

I also will give them some facts.

  • Hey, if I yell “Watch me” that means I think I may fall. No need to belay differently, just be prepared for a catch.
  • I’m trying this new thing where I clip in to the bolts and let go before the slack is taken out. It is just a training to combat my fear of falling. Just make sure to belay normally when I get to the top.
  • When I get past the 2nd bolt, I will need some a soft catch to get under that overhang (etc.). 

Want to earn some bonus points as a belayer?

There I was getting ready to climb. I am nervous about falling so there I was putting off starting. This climb was right at my level. The last time I climbed it I took a full fall. I was too tired to clip in to the bolt and fell a full distance. Was I fine? Yes. Did I realize at the time falling was no big deal? Yes. Did that help me my next trip there? No. Anyways, I turn to my belayer and I tell her, “Hey this is right at my level. Right above the 3rd bolt be ready to catch me”. She looked at me like I was crazy. And said, “I am always read to catch.”

That’s the truth. As a belayer the job is to always be able to catch your climber. You would be surprised at how just a few words can really help the climber climb hard. It makes a difference of a bad day to a good day! Somewhere out there in this big world is the belayer of your dreams. 😉

What questions do you ask your partner? Have you ever rejected someone’s offer to belay? What lead you to turn them down? Let me know in the comments! 🙂

2 thoughts on “Belay Talks

  1. This is great. I really enjoyed the belay article and it was a great refresher!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! It helps when looking for a new climber parter 🙂
      Really 😦 since we are not climbing together! Hope it helps!


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